2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Combining Self-Talk and Attentional Focus: An Investigation of the Optimal Implementation of Self-Talk in Sports

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Mariane Bacelar


Self-talk is a psychological technique where people say statements to themselves silently or aloud to motivate or goal-direct movement. The latter, called instructional self-talk, consists of cue word strings that athletes use to guide performance (e.g., “bend-shoot” in basketball), which has been shown to enhance performance. Depending on the type of cue words used during self-talk, athletes can shift their attention to their own body (internal focus) or to the outcome of the movement (external focus). However, studies in motor learning have shown that an internal focus of attention negatively impacts performance. Thus, this study investigated whether the type of self-talk cue used affects performance in a golf-putting task. We predicted that participants would show better performance when using external-focus cues. In this experiment, participants performed a golf-putting task while implementing self-talk. After completing a familiarization phase and self-talk training, participants completed 80 trials using internal-focus cues in half of them and external-focus cues in the other half. Based on preliminary results, the type of instructional self-talk cue did not significantly affect performance (p > 0.05). The lack of difference between conditions suggests that athletes might be able to use internal- or external-focus cues without any performance detriments.

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